Psalm 53 was probably adapted from Psalm 14 after Israel experienced a tremendous military victory over a godless people. It acknowledges that there are some people who reject God so thoroughly that they live as if they will never have to give an answer for their behavior. In the Scriptures, that is the definition of foolishness.
1 – 3
What David is describing here is “practical atheism.” It isn’t a fool like we think of—someone who is stupid, but fool here describes someone who chooses to not accept the reality of God. It is moral insensitivity and spiritual ignorance. The person described here “says in their heart” there is no god. The attitude pervades their character. This isn’t someone who just hasn’t made up their mind. This is someone who has flat out rejected God.
This decision has consequences. The person who rejects God rejects good. When they do that, they are then led to do the opposite of good. The Holman calls it “corrupt” and “they do vile deeds.” Corrupt here means “decayed”. Vile is “loathsome”.
We like to think that man, in the absence of a supreme being, would evolve to moral goodness. Quite the opposite is actually true.
Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7-9: “Don't be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, 8 because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.”
God has investigated and found that as a race, no one deserves mercy from God—no one seeks God—and no one can be considered “good” given God’s holiness.
Paul repeated the words of the end of verse 3 in Romans 3:12.
What is lacking is a sense of the peril this puts people in.
4 – 5
The enemies of God’s people trample them with no more thought than eating a slice of bread. But they ignore God to their own peril. They put God’s people in terror but it is they who will feel terror “like no other.”
They have rejected God—and so God in turn rejects them. But what they don’t realize is that apart from the life of God there is only death. They don’t realize or refuse to acknowledge that withiut God they are without anything they have ever considered to be good.
Verse 6 is a rejoicing that though these kind of enemies who take no thought of God do wicked things against God’s people, that ultimately He will prevail and we will rejoice and be glad in His victory.
There are two vital questions we must all face as humans: is there a God and if so, does He care what I do?
I personally think the evidence for the existence of God is all around us. There is evidence in the creation, evidence in the Scriptures, evidence by eye witnesses, and even evidence in our own hearts. I think the more important question is: does God care? The answer is: absolutely.
God said: “Be holy as I am holy” (Leviticus 19:2) and “no man can see Me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Paul said: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In fact, Jesus said: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34). The truth is that as humans we sin by nature and cannot help it. In fact, without God, our human nature draws us further away from thinking, speaking, and acting like God.
Acts 17:30-31 “God now commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead."
God exists, God is holy, and God will judge according to that holy standard. The only way to escape it is to die—die to yourself through the sacrifice of Jesus and live to God through His resurrection!
God says “Be holy” and He makes a way for us to be holy by giving us the holiness of Jesus!
Psalm 54 takes place after the events of 1 Samuel 23. David has just rescued the people of Keilah from an attack against the Philistines. The people of the town, instead of thanking David, actually ratted him out to Saul, who was wanting to kill David. So David ran out into the wilderness of Ziph. Jonathan, Saul’s son, came out to encourage David’s faith in the Lord and that God would make him king. The Ziphites though, also gave up David’s location to Saul who came charging out to find and kill him.
1 – 3
Even as David clung to his faith in Yahweh, encouraged by Jonathan, here he calls on the name of Yahweh to deliver him from these people who are acting like strangers to the covenant of God and His people.
4 – 5
Though twice man was not David’s helper, here he recognizes that God will be his helper and the sustainer of his life, which was very much in jeopardy. It is God who will repay.
During this time, David had two chances to kill Saul. But he refused. It showed that David trusted God so much that he simply would not take matters into his own hands. That doesn’t mean justice will not be done though.
6 – 7
David is confident that in the end he will be able to fulfill what God called him to do: to shepherd the people of Israel and be able to come to the Tabernacle and worship without fear of death.
The words there in verse 7 are literally true. David looked down upon the sleeping form of Saul in 1 Samuel 26:7.
1 Sam 26:9-11 But David said to Abishai, "Don't destroy him, for who can lift a hand against the Lord's anointed and be blameless?" 10 David added, "As the Lord lives, the Lord will certainly strike him down: either his day will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 However, because of the Lord, I will never lift my hand against the Lord's anointed. Instead, take the spear and the water jug by his head, and let's go."
For us I think the application is this: don’t be concerned about getting justice for yourself here. Keep serving the Lord and loving others and let Him vindicate you when it is time.
There are few situations as difficult to handle in life when someone you know and trust comes against you. I have had the misfortune to experience this multiple times in my life and ministry when people I trusted, people I fellowshipped with, people I respected—turned on me and said untrue things about me and caused me great harm.
I’m not thinking of anyone in our church today, so don’t worry—but I certainly can identify with David here in Psalm 55. We don’t know the occasion of this psalm but we do know that David experienced a great deal of betrayal in his life, so it is perhaps one of those instances that led to this psalm.
1 – 8
David here uses very poetic, picturesque speech to describe his feelings and what he wants to do. He describes himself as “restless and in turmoil.” He feels “pressure” from angry words that are “harassing” him. He describes his heart as “shuddering”. I know what that feels like. I have experienced times when you get hit with betrayal. It is so bad because of coming from an unexpected source. The problem is that we are steeled against attack from someone who we know does not love God. But there is an openness to our brothers and sisters that can made us vulnerable.
In verses 6 and following, all David wants to do is flee. I know what feels like as well. You want to quit, you want to just get rid of the stress and turmoil by quitting and moving and just giving up.
So David then begins to plea with the Lord for Him to move.
9 – 14
David describes this person who has come against him like a city. And it is a city that David is familiar with because the person is a trusted individual. It is a person David used to fellowship closely with—a brother in the Lord. How horrible that is.
David then prays not only that their words would be confused (vs 9) but that there would be a death to this effort as well.
15 – 19
David sees this struggle as a battle. One thing that I have learned from years walking with the Lord and in ministry is that just because a person is a Christian does not make them immune from being used by the enemy. I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 2:11. Paul wants a person who wronged him forgiven and goes on to say: “so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his intentions.”
This is a great lesson to all of us. Being a Christian doesn’t stop the flesh. It is still there, trying to assert itself and it is in alignment with Satan. As we grow in Christ the flesh loses its influence. But one of our problems is that we focus on major things like sexual sins and gross immorality but we fail to focus on things like gossip, lying, selfish ambition, and backbiting—which the enemy can use to great advantage in furthering his schemes.
The key is to “fear God” like David says in verse 19. If we don’t, we can be used to hurt others.
20 – 21
In essence, David is saying that words can sound good and all spiritual but have evil intent. I have experienced this myself. In one situation in ministry I was intending to do good and bring about peace but was actually accused of rebellion and was persecuted within that ministry. I know in my heart to this day that my motives and actions were pure. The words spoken against me were so smooth and buttery but were filled with lies and it violated the character of Christ that is supposed to reign in our lives.
So finally, David brings it home with what should be his response: trust.
22 – 23
No matter how awful the hurt, cast the burden of it on the Lord for Him to act as He wills. In my case, God worked a greater good in me, though it took years and much perspective. I know He will hold those accountable so I don’t have to hold that myself to become bitter.